MCU Artist Reveals How Sony Restricted RDJ's Iron Man Suit Design

By John Ross Bradford Updated:
Spider-Man, Tom Holland, Robert Downey Jr, Iron Man

Throughout Robert Downey Jr.’s various MCU appearances as Tony Stark, he’s often shown flaunting a shiny new upgrade to his Iron Man armor. In fact, almost every RDJ inclusion also warrants a new Iron Man suit, and each suit that Tony makes is better than the last. It wasn’t until Sony got involved in the MCU process that Iron Man’s on-screen advancements started to plateau. 

Ever since 2008’s Iron Man introduced Tony Stark as a genius innovator looking to help protect the world, fans have watched Stark make new discoveries and countless improvements to his tech over the years. From discovering a new element in Iron Man 2 to making time-travel a reality in Avengers: Endgame, Stark is constantly one-upping himself. 

But when Tony showed up in 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming donning his latest Mark 47 Iron Man armor, the suit seemed to include nothing more than an updated paint job from the year prior's Mark 46 in Captain America: Civil War

This left fans wondering why such a subtle change was made to Tony’s suit. In fact, it’s still unclear what exactly the new, Ultimate Comics-inspired look for Iron Man actually meant for his development as the Armored Avenger. However, the artist who designed the Mark 47 armor recently indicated that Sony might not have been willing to write a check big enough for a new Iron Man suit to be in their first MCU Spider-Man film. 

Iron Man: Too Big for Sony's Pockets? 

“You can’t afford me.” 

- Tony Stark, Iron Man 2 

Longtime Marvel Studios concept artist Phil Saunders recently shared several photos on Instagram detailing Iron Man’s Mark 47 armor from Spider-Man: Homecoming and how the suit came to be a reality. 

Iron Man comparison

As many fans have noticed since the film’s 2017 release, Saunders noted that the Iron Man armor in Homecoming is actually “just a recolor of (his) Mark 46 from Captain America: Civil War. Apparently, this was only necessary because “Sony didn’t have the (visual effects) budget for a whole new suit" for Tony Stark to show off. 

This left Marvel Studios in a bit of a pickle, having to include Iron Man in the movie without a new Iron Man suit to sell movie tickets and toys. Saunders recalled that, as a compromise, “Kevin Feige requested a nod to the Ultimate Iron Man in the repaint” of Civil War’s Mark 46 armor, which included much more silver in the suit's design to honor its comic inspiration. 

Ultimate Iron Man
Ultimate Iron Man

Saunders' full caption can be seen below:

“Iron Man Mk XLVII from Spider-Man: Homecoming. Those with a keen eye will realize this model is just a recolor of my Mk XLVI from Captain America: Civil War. Sony didn’t have the VFX budget for a whole new suit, so Kevin Feige requested a nod to the Ultimate Iron Man in the repaint. And after a few variations, the Mk XLVII was born!"

Ultimate Iron Man in the MCU 

Keep in mind that Sony's effects budget was probably a bit different in 2017 — before Spider-Man movies were regularly raking in $1 billion or more at the box office. So, although Spider-Man: No Way Home may have featured everything from Doctor Strange's magic to a fight that nearly leveled the Statue of Liberty, tough decisions had to be made about Spider-Man: Homecoming's visuals and some ideas had to be left on the cutting room floor. 

Despite Sony’s budget apparently limiting Marvel’s ability to further advance Tony Stark’s armor, Kevin Feige instead found a unique opportunity to celebrate an iconic Marvel Comics appearance of the Man in a Can. 

Incorporating the dominant, shiny silver in the color scheme of Iron Man’s Homecoming suit adds just enough to make it feel different while also giving Ultimate Comics fans some new MCU material to grin at. 

Ironically, the Iron Man actor himself may have played a role in straining Sony’s budget, as Robert Downey Jr. reportedly made $10-15 million for his mere ten minutes of screen time in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Of course, that’s just speculation, but RDJ’s inclusion in the film seems to have been expensive in more ways than one. 

Granted, Tony Stark’s genius-level intellect was still put on full display throughout Spider-Man's first MCU flick, as Peter Parker explored the vast capabilities of his new Stark-tech Spidey suit — 576 web combinations and all. 

Although Iron Man may not have had many upgrades of his own to show off in Spider-Man Homecoming, his ability to innovate and advance was still conveyed through the suit that he built for the next generation of heroes. 

- About The Author: John Ross Bradford
John Ross Bradford is an editor and writer at The Direct. He has contributed to content ideation and development across multiple branches of the company's website since it launched in 2020.